The Prime Minister’s Office does not run background checks on guest lists provided by members of Parliament, CTV News has learned.
The issue has taken centre stage after a man convicted of attempted murder received an invite to a private reception in New Delhi with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Jaspal Atwal was convicted in 1986 of trying to murder an Indian cabinet minister on Vancouver Island. At the time, Atwal was a member of a Sikh separatist group banned by the Canadian government.
He was also charged, but acquitted, in a 1985 attack on former Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh.
“It shocked me that you would have people like that accompany MPs who would know better,” Dosanjh told CTV News on Thursday.
The RCMP and CSIS also did not run a background check on Atwal. Sources say both agencies are limited by privacy laws and don’t have a mandate to automatically check names — unlike the U.S. Secret Service, which looks into the background of anyone near the president.
Phil Gursky, a former CSIS analyst, says that in the case of Atwal, a simple Google search would have sufficed.
“You don’t need CSIS or the RCMP to tell you that this guy’s got a past,” Gursky said.
Sources say the Harper government regularly asked the RCMP to run background checks, especially for foreign trips, and political staff vetted each name.
“Ultimately it’s up to the Prime Minister’s Office to determine who gets on a trip and who doesn’t,” former Conservative staffer Garry Keller told CTV’s Power Play.
Dosanjh says he’s previously flagged concerns about the relationship between Sikh extremists and Canadian politics.
“I’ve been saying for a long, long time that Canadian politics has been home to Khalistani separatists with a great deal of immunity for a long, long time,” he said.